A few days back I posted a “Movie Talk” video (to YouTube and under the YouTube tab of the homepage) saying that DiCaprio, Larsen, Alejandro (director of “The Revenant”) and Vikander were locks. I expressed serious doubts that Sylvester Stallone—the favorite for Best Supporting Actor in “Creed”—would win, and even lamented that I was afraid Mark Rylance would take the prize, as he was expected to before Stallone won The Golden Globe. [Those Oscar voters just can’t resist the prestige of a British theater-actor against The Italian Stallion.]
And that’s really too bad, because I was hoping Stallone would take it. In fact, only he and Hardy even deserved to be nominated in that category. In “The Big Short,” it’s actually Ryan Gosling who steals the movie, not Christian Bale (although he’s still pretty good), and Mark Ruffalo’s overly-mannered, twitchy acting is easily the worst thing about the otherwise perfect “Spotlight” (which likewise had Michael Keaton giving the best performance in that same category). I would have much rather seen Idris Elba, Jacob Tremblay, Keaton, and Benicio Del Toro (excellent in “Sicario”) be nominated over Rylance.
Anyway, the Oscar telecast itself retained the streak of mediocrity that’s dominated in year’s past. Don’t even bother trying to remember Neil Patrick Harris or Ellen Degeneres, it’s not worth the effort. Chris Rock was a great host the last time he did it, but things were a little different this time.
For starters, pretty much everyone has already made the jokes he did tonight. We’ve been treated to “Oscars So White,” boycotts, mockings, and even changing the rules of who votes since the nominations were announced. It’s the rare time Chris isn’t one of the first to talk about something, and his comedy thrives on the spontaneity and shock of touching fresh nerves. Well, these were pretty much dulled by the time he got to poke at them. He’s even said he had to throw out some original monlogue jokes because twitter beat him to the punch.
His monologue started the evening off well, but I assumed he would have something else to talk about throughout the show. He never really did (except for an uninspired Girl Scouts pledge-drive bit that directly copied Ellen ordering pizzas two years ago). And by the end of the near-four hour long telecast it felt like a stand-up special in search of a second joke. [And when the Academy president came out to talk about the importance of nominating more minorities, a dead man might have gotten the point.]
It also didn’t seem like he’d actually seen many of the movies that were nominated, barely even mentioning The Revenant, Sicario, Mad Max, Spotlight, etc. Maybe I’m alone, but spending four hours talking about the Academy not nominating black actors but not even mentioning the Catholic sex abuse scandal that drove the Best Picture winner? That seems more than a little disinterested.
And I was thrilled that “Spotlight” won. In that same Movie Talk I mentioned, I was torn between it and The Revenant winning, but ultimately decided Spotlight was a little bit better movie. Plus, it’s a film that needs the gravitas of a Best Picture win behind it so people won’t just let this sex abuse story die out—so far, the church has still not fully cooperated with police in bringing pedophile priests to justice…at all—and it will certainly inspire more people to see the movie too, which is a great thing. Although if you still haven’t seen “The Revenant” in a theater yet, do so immediately. It’s the first film since “Gravity” that I felt must be seen in a theater, and is the only film of 2015 that comes within an inch of being just as good as Spotlight. And truth be told, I could probably watch “The Revenant” more times.